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December 20th, 2022

            Magic. Nothing short of heart stirring magic. That’s what we wanted and that’s what we got. This World Cup has brought the world literally every conceivable thing possible. Controversy, heartbreak, turmoil, yes but joy as well. For those who love this game can only be grateful to have witnessed one of the best tournaments in our lifetime. Some of the greatest ever on display with the goat himself at the forefront. The dreams, the time, the energy, the spirit, the life we give to this game the world loves all comes together for a month of magical, wonderful, incredible, inspiring, beautiful moments. Every football fan ever, yes even French ones, had to smile to see Messi lift the cup for this is the culmination of any football lover’s dream. The shiny star on top of a sterling career, a true moment of immortal magic.

            The tournament draws to a close and I am saddened by this but couldn’t be more grateful for such a wonderful celebration of soccer. There were goals, goals, and more goals. There was heart, there was energy, there was passion. The fans showed up and the noise level was astounding. The spirit behind all of the teams was a joy to see. So much history was made at this tournament from records of longevity to debutants and team achievements. A tournament of surprises, twists and turns. A tournament of moments.

            As an American and a USMNT fan I was not disappointed in the performance from the men in the stars and stripes. As always when we grace the World Cup, it was a wild and dramatic ride. Yes, we could’ve used some more lethality in front of net but the performances we showed on the grandest stage made me proud. Tactical inexperience both on the field and in the technical area cost us in the end but our opposition approached games against the US with caution and a tactical plan rather than the simple belief that we’re better than you and you cannot do anything about it. We had top players playing in the top leagues and our quality was on display. Tyler Adams is an absolute stalwart in that midfield and I love that he had the armband and I hope he has that for many years to come. After missing out for 8.5 long years, it warmed my heart and made me proud that we had such an inspiring performance on the world’s biggest stage and made sure everyone was sure we would be back, bigger, better and stronger as hosts in four years’ time. And of course, in spite of what Captain America may say about not having had his Landon Donovan moment, the sacrifice and willingness to put it all on the line 4 The Badge is an unforgettable moment that will go down in US Soccer legend!!!

            As hosts go, their team wasn’t great but their tournament was certainly enjoyable. Enner Valencia put on a show and Senegal were really fun to watch. Their fans showed heart and their team, spirit. The Dutch seemed uninspired at best, I thought, but were strong against the States. Until their moment came against Argentina and what a moment it was?! The well worked free kick to 1 two punch em and tie the match had me standing in my living room hands on head in disbelief and awe. England’s run was inspiring and I did cheer for them, at least when they weren’t playing the USA. I do so enjoy seeing Bukayo Saka getting his moment and scoring some goals, of course. Kane’s moment will be one to forget, unfortunately, and again while it is objectively sad, tribalism rules in the premier league! I thought the Iranians made the best of a bad situation amidst one of the more tumultuous campaigns and should be proud of their showing. What a moment it was to stun Wales with late, late, late goals in a cup with lots of additional time. Speaking of the dragons, just their presence was cause for celebration as the last game they played in the World Cup was against Pele.

            Robert Lewandowski nearly had me in tears after his first World Cup goal and I’m quite certain my reaction would’ve been the same. Memo! Memo! Memo! What a legend the Mexican goalkeeper is, saving a pen in his fifth World Cup; another history maker. An enormous sky blue and white feather in the caps of the team from Saudi Arabia (to go with their Rols’) who will forever be able to say, “We beat the champions the year Messi won the cup!” How did their coach know the Argentines would go on to lift the trophy? The French run was full of so many moments its hard to count them all. Mbappe had 8 of them, and Olivier Giroud cements his legendary status at the top of the goal scorer’s sheet. Antoine Griezman had a shout at the Golden Ball of the entire tournament but again…it’s the margins where they fell just short, the moments they will want to forget. Australia didn’t even expect to be there, let alone advance from the group! The scenes down under when they went through brought tears to my eyes, the joy and the euphoria drew me in. I wanted to be there so bad. The spirit and fight in the Tunisia players were nothing short of amazing! Three minutes into the match and your slide tackle elicits goal celebrations and brings joy to the hearts of millions everywhere. A last tournament for Christian Eriksen perhaps? This was not, unfortunately, to be the moment for any of the Danes in underwhelming show across their games.

            Japanese fans had more than their share of rapturous moments from cleaning the stadiums to the ball that wasn’t out of bounds, or was, or wasn’t……Spain’s young guns came out flying with a bang but this, their best moment, came way too early for the Spanish. The moment for the Germans certainly wasn’t one anyone wants to remember but Barcelona will pay for it next season! Costa Rica were the roller coaster of the tournament and their win over Japan absolutely shocked the world!! Belgium’s moment is another to forget but I doubt Romelu Lukaku will ever forget his five chances in as many misses, I mean minutes. What a moment for the Canadians!!! How many years and they were back!!! Luka Modric’s last cup is sad but he is a legend forevermore and Croatia prove once again their mettle. Morocco! Morocco! Morocco! What a story! What a sport! What a game! Pick your moment in this historic run!!! First African nation in the semifinals is something to tell the grandkids, a moment to be proud of!!

            The Brazilians entertained but unfortunately for Neymar their most memorable moment saw him never even get the chance to take a penalty as they crashed out. A sad end to a wonderful international career. The Swiss played some intricate stuff, not least of all the possibly the best team goal of the tournament and good ol’ hothead Granit Xhaka managed to keep his head… well, sort of. What a wonderful story for Cameroon! First African team to beat Brazil in how long?! Tough tourney for the Serbians but too many moments passed them by. Ronaldo’s last World Cup moment was tough to see and overshadowed by their opponents. One of the greats to be sure but, forgive me, it felt like just desserts for a Portugal side that left you with a poor taste in your mouth. South Korea was nothing short of inspiring and a joy to watch! A 90th minute winner to send them through to the next round?! Who’s writing this stuff?! Uruguay and Ghana actually shared their most poignant moment as the Ghanaians got a small manner of revenge on their villain, pulling them down out of the tournament with them. Uruguay didn’t cover themselves in any glory and the scenes in the end are best left untouched.

            What a moment in time this past month has been?! I know I have been inspired, awed, shocked, surprised, and many more emotions on this roller coaster of a tournament. A tournament of moments with a fitting end. Messi finally got his moment and we all feel like we were on the journey with him. A beautiful conclusion to a beautiful tournament of the world’s game on the world’s stage. To Messi, and to this sport which I love so dear, for this moment, I thank you!

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